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The Dynamics of Railway Imperialism, 1888–1910

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Abstract

There has been fierce debate over the years amongst historians over whether the main priority of Rhodes and his camp-followers was to extend the ambit of the British Empire throughout all Africa or to gain control of territory and resources for capitalist exploitation and self-enrichment. The opposing sides in this debate have all used Rhodes’ railway schemes as examples to ballast their respective arguments. In 1974 Ian Phimister intervened in this debate in an article which argued that Rhodes was best understood as capitalist in his motivation. Phimister looked at Rhodes’ attitude to railway development before 1897 to illustrate his argument. He claimed that, realising as early as 1894 that there was no ‘second Rand’ in Southern Rhodesia, Rhodes ‘at first followed a cheap and highly cautious’ railway policy, only pushing construction on rapidly after 1896, when ‘the collapse of the speculative boom and the African risings threatened capitalist investment in Southern Rhodesia’.1

Keywords

Company Limited Share Capital Railway System Railway Company Railway Construction 
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Notes and References

  1. 1.
    I. R. Phimister, ‘Rhodes, Rhodesia and the Rand’, Journal of Southern Africa Studies, I (1974) pp. 84–6.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    I. R. Phimister, ‘Towards a History of Zimbabwe’s Rhodesia Railways’, Zimbabwean History, XII (1981) pp. 81–2.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    K.E. Wilburn Junior, ‘The Climax of Railway Competition 1886–99’ (University of Oxford PhD thesis, 1982); P. Maylam, Rhodes, the Tswana and the British. Colonialism, Collaboration and Conflict in the Bechuanaland Protectorate (Connecticut, 1980). I do not dwell in any depth on the issue of how real Rhodes’s commitment was to the ‘Cape to Cairo Railway’, although I would certainly not go as far as does Travis Hanes III, who describes Rhodes as ‘obsessed with the Cape to Cairo Railway’. See his ‘Railway Politics and Imperialism in Central Africa, 1889–1953’ in Davis and Wilburn Jr (eds), Railway Imperialism, (Connecticut, 1991), p. 49.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Wilburn Jr, ‘The Climax of Railway Competition in South Africa’, pp. 7–8.Google Scholar
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    Wilburn Jr, Ibid.; Maylam, Rhodes, the Tswana and the British, pp. 81–4.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Maylam, Rhodes, the Tswana and the British, pp. 59, 83–7.Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Phimister, ‘Towards a history’, p. 81.Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    Wilburn Jr, ‘Railway Competition’, pp. 58–9.Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    Ibid., pp. 69–80, 88–106.Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    Ibid., p. 92.Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    Phimister, ‘Rhodes, Rhodesia and the Rand’, p. 85.Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    For another account of the machinations of Rhodes in relation to the East coast route which is identical in its essentials to what follows, see L. White, Bridging the Zambesi. A Colonial Folly (London, 1993), pp. 32–6.Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    Maylam, Rhodes, the Tswana and the British, p. 49.Google Scholar
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  19. 19.
    Ibid., p. 15.Google Scholar
  20. 20.
    Phimister, ‘Rhodes, Rhodesia and the Rand’, p. 85.Google Scholar
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  22. 22.
    Phimister, ‘Rhodes, Rhodesia and the Rand’, 79.Google Scholar
  23. 23.
    Wilburn Jr, ‘Railway Competition’, pp. 146–8, 156.Google Scholar
  24. 24.
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  25. 25.
    Ibid., pp. 162, 192, 199, 207.Google Scholar
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    Phimister, ‘Rhodes, Rhodesia and the Rand’, 84–5.Google Scholar
  27. 27.
    Phimister, An Economic and Social History of Zimbabwe: Capital Accumulation and Class Struggle (London 1988), p. 21.Google Scholar
  28. 28.
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  29. 29.
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  34. 34.
    Phimister, ‘Rhodes, Rhodesia and the Rand’, 65, 81; R. Turrell, ‘“Finance … The Governor of the Imperial Engine”: Hobson and the Case of the Rothschilds and Rhodes’, Journal of Southern African Studies, XIII (1987) p. 423Google Scholar
  35. 35.
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  38. 38.
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  39. 39.
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  40. 40.
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  41. 41.
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  42. 42.
    d’Erlanger, Construction and Finance, p. 20.Google Scholar
  43. 43.
    Phimister, An Economic and Social History of Zimbabwe, p. 94.Google Scholar
  44. 44.
    d’Erlanger, Construction and Finance, pp. 10–11.Google Scholar
  45. 45.
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  46. 46.
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  47. 47.
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  48. 48.
    Ibid., p. 91.Google Scholar
  49. 49.
    Ibid., pp. 24–7.Google Scholar
  50. 50.
    D. Kynaston, The City of London. Vol. II: The Golden Years, 1890–1914 (London, 1995), p. 279.Google Scholar
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    Cain and Hopkins, British Imperialism. Innovation and Expansion p. 310.Google Scholar
  52. 52.
    Ibid., pp. 116–31, 374–8. However, Rothschilds was extremely interested in the richer pickings of the Rand and formed a long-standing association with Rhodes’s companies, De Beers and Consolidated Gold Fields.Google Scholar
  53. 53.
    Berten E. B. d’Erlanger, My Souvenirs (Privately Printed, 1978), pp. 172–86. I thank Pauling and Company Ltd for supplying me with a photocopy of these revelations; d’Erlanger, Construction and Finance, p. 20; G. Pauling, The Chronicles of a Contractor (London, 1926), p. 142.Google Scholar
  54. 54.
    d’Erlanger, Construction and Finance, pp. 13–14.Google Scholar
  55. 55.
    RH, Rhodes Papers C20/4, G. Pauling to C.J. Rhodes, 17 July 1897.Google Scholar
  56. 56.
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  57. 57.
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  58. 58.
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  59. 59.
    Ibid., Grey to Cawston, 23 August 1897.Google Scholar
  60. 60.
    d’Erlanger, Construction and Finance, pp. 36–7.Google Scholar
  61. 61.
    For accounts of settler grievances against the railways see The Reform Movement in Rhodesia (Salisbury, 1903), pp. 47–8; P. F. Hone, Southern Rhodesia (London, 1909), pp. 331–3 and 335–42; E.T. Jollie, The Real Rhodesia (London, 1924), pp. 209–22; Rhodesia Review, pp. 152–4, 228–9.Google Scholar
  62. 62.
    Report of Brigadier-General F.D. Hammond on the Railway System of Southern Rhodesia (3 Vols, Salisbury, 1926), Vol. 1, p. 9 (henceforth Hammond Report).Google Scholar
  63. 63.
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  64. 64.
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  65. 65.
    Jollie, The Real Rhodesia (London, 1924), pp. 209.Google Scholar
  66. 66.
    Hilferding, Finance Capital. A Study of the Latest Phase of Captalist Development, (London, 1981) p. 117.Google Scholar
  67. 67.
    Hammond Report, Vol. 1, pp. 13–16.Google Scholar
  68. 68.
    Jollie, Rhodesia, p. 218; Reform Movement, pp. 46–8.Google Scholar
  69. 69.
    Phimister, ‘Towards a History’, pp. 85–6. For useful general discussions of rating structures, see A. M. Hawkins, ‘The Railway Rating Policy of Rhodesia Railways, 1949–60’ (University of Oxford B. Litt. thesis, 1963) and P. Mosley, The Settler Economies. Studies in the Economic History of Kenya and Southern Rhodesia (Cambridge, 1983).Google Scholar
  70. 70.
    National Railways of Zimbabwe Museum (henceforth NRZM) 681/1069, Ton Mile Cost Book, Rhodesia Railways 1928–48. Memorandum of the General Manager, 24 January 1922.Google Scholar
  71. 71.
    Hawkins, ‘The Railway Rating Policy’ p. 104.Google Scholar
  72. 72.
    Report of Mr William Mitchell Acworth, Commissioner Appointed to Enquire into Railway Questions in Southern Rhodesia (Salisbury, 1918), p. 32.Google Scholar
  73. 73.
    Hone, Southern Rhodesia, pp. 331–4; Rhodesia Review, pp. 152–3.Google Scholar
  74. 74.
    NRZM 681/1069, Memo. of the General Manager, 24 January 1922; Hawkins, ‘Railway Rating Policy’, p. 104; Phimister, ‘Towards a History’, p. 86.Google Scholar
  75. 75.
    d’Erlanger, Construction and Finance, p. 14.Google Scholar
  76. 76.
    NAZ A1/5/3, Administrators’ Office, In Letters, J.F. Jones to W. Milton, 22 August 1901.Google Scholar
  77. 77.
    Reform Movement, pp. 46–8.Google Scholar
  78. 78.
    Hone, Southern Rhodesia, pp. 329–30.Google Scholar
  79. 79.
    NAZ A/1/5/5, Administrators Office, In Letters, J.F. Jones to W. Milton, 18 September 1903.Google Scholar
  80. 80.
    Hammond Report, Vol. 1, pp. 6–8.Google Scholar
  81. 81.
    South African State Archives (henceforth SAS), Pretoria, Vol. 372, F15397, Vryburg-Bulawayo and Rhodesia Railways, 1911–30. Memo. on relations between the South African Railways and the Rhodesia Railways, and the Beira and Mashonaland Railways, August 1931, pp. 7–11.Google Scholar
  82. 82.
    Ibid., 12; SAS Vol. 1612, RG 230, Division of Revenue between Rhodesia Railways and the South African Railways, 1911–51. Memo. on the Vryburg-Bulawayo Section, the Rates Officer, 15 April 1912.Google Scholar
  83. 83.
    P. Mosley, The Settler Economies. Studies in the Economic History of Kenya and Southern Rhodesia (Cambridge, 1983), p. 66.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  84. 84.
    NAZ ZAC 1/1/1, Cost of Living Committee, 1918, Oral Evidence, Bulawayo, L. Thomas, Traffic Manager of the Railways, pp. 296–8.Google Scholar
  85. 85.
    Ibid., pp. 67–8.Google Scholar
  86. 86.
    Arrighi, ‘The Political Economy of Rhodesia’, p. 336.Google Scholar
  87. 87.
    The quote is taken from M. E. Lee, ‘Politics and Pressure Groups in Southern Rhodesia, 1898–1923’ (University of London Ph.D. thesis, 1974), pp. 132–3.Google Scholar
  88. 88.
  89. 89.
    The Reform Movement, pp. 47–8.Google Scholar

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© Jon Lunn 1997

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